Tag Archives: Television

Canada’s Cassie Friedman found intriguing stories for Global TV

Cassie Friedman says being a producer is synonymous with being a storyteller. Sometimes she will become bogged down with logistics – coordinating schedules, booking locations, finding potential characters, etc. But when all those pieces come together, she is telling a story. As a producer, she ensures every part of a production is in order, and at the same time finds the most compelling stories to keep her audience engaged.

Now, Friedman is an internationally sought-after development producer, working with the independent production company Studio Lambert in both London and Los Angeles. Before that, however, she was working with one of Canada’s largest broadcasters, Global Television. Not only did she help produce The Morning Show, The News at Noon, and the station’s ‘Child Safety Awareness Week’, but she also greatly contributed to various other newsroom projects.

“Global is one of the major networks in Canada and I’d been watching Channel 3 my whole life. Global’s reputation was already top tier for me. It was a no-brainer for me to try to start my career there,” said Friedman.

Global Television is a privately-owned, Canadian English-language broadcast television network, now owned by Corus Entertainment. Friedman worked on many projects for the network, like the bi-weekly Making a Difference segment, the Ontario General Election in 2011 and covering Canada’s National Ballet School’s Assemblee Internationale in 2013. Her responsibilities included researching, shot listing, booking stories, and assisting cameramen on shoots.

The Global Toronto Newsroom was always abuzz and working there always felt like you were right where the action was. I was always driven to do my absolute best, because I was surrounded by the best journalists in one of Canada’s most respected newsrooms. So, I took extra care working on major projects. I used my research skills to tell a great story and ensure there were no errors,” she said.

Friedman’s contributions were essential to the newsroom’s success on a daily basis. During her time there, Global News won the 2013 Edward R. Murrow award for Overall News Excellence in Network Television, and Global Toronto won four RTDNA Edward R. Murrow awards in 2013, including the Bert Cannings Award – Best Newscast. For Friedman, the acclaim was absolutely fantastic.

“I always felt so lucky to be part of such an iconic, respected newsroom and working with a smart, committed team. It was so rewarding to be recognized for all the hard work we all put in day in and day out. I don’t think any of us did it for the recognition, so to be acknowledged, it definitely made me feel more appreciated. And confident that what we were doing was having an impact,” she said.

For a large part of her time at Global news, Friedman worked on anchor Susan Hay’s Making a Difference segment, where Hay would showcase inspiring people in the community who were doing charitable acts and helping others. Hay had been at Global for more than 20 years, and served as an inspiration for a 21-year-old Friedman. Friedman booked shoots, worked in the field and helped with scripts. On one occasion, when Friedman thought she may not find a story in time, she found out about a woman in the community who offered yoga programs for the elderly, and it ended up being one of the show’s best segments.

“What makes Cassie incredible to work with is her positive attitude. That goes a long way in the news industry. She was always full of energy, ideas, and willing to help. Her determination and passion for creativity has placed her where she is today – which is far ahead of many of her peers,” said Susan Hay, TV Host and Journalist.

Working on the show also allowed Friedman to discover new passions. While covering the provincial election, she found she had an affinity for politics. She looked at every riding, who might win, who’d won previously, which ridings swung in the federal election. She ended up choosing two Conservative and two Liberal locations. She also had to choose one for the New Democratic Party, and chose a seemingly random riding north of Toronto because it had swung NDP in the federal election. Her instincts proved fruitful.

“After lots of research, I had a feeling it would swing NDP again. I sent our cameras to the NDP candidate’s event, and low and behold, that candidate won and had a huge celebration with music and dancing. It made for great television and showcased a community that had never really been seen before. It was very exciting and what I took away from it was that digging deep into research pays off,” said Friedman.

There is no doubt that Friedman is an extraordinary producer, with natural instincts and a complete commitment to her craft. She will continue to bring success to whatever she works on, and audiences will enjoy watching her do it.

Actor Konstadinos Lahanas does own stunt work in popular TV show ‘The Disappearance’

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Konstadinos Lahanas

Performing has always been Konstadinos Lahanas passion. He feels as if he was meant to be an actor, and audiences around the world could not agree more. His versatility is consistently evident, seamlessly transitioning from dramatic to comedic roles throughout his career. He has emerged as one of Greece’s leading actors, and has no plans on slowing down.

Throughout his career, Lahanas has worked on a series of successful projects, whether it be film, television, commercials, or stage plays. His work in series like Family Stories (Oikogeneiakes Istories), and I Have a Secret (Eho Ena Mystiko), the film The Pilgrim (O Proskinitis), and a popular Yoplait commercial shown all over Europe has made him instantly identifiable. One of his most well-known performances was on the hit television show The Disappearance (I Exafanisi).

“I wanted to work on this hit series for many reasons.  It was considered a big production for Greek standards and something that hadn’t been done before.  The action sequences were one of a kind for this production and the director, Stratos Markidis, had a great reputation for the way he worked on set and he was on the top of my list of directors of whom I wished to work with,” said Lahanas.

The Disappearance was a popular two-season, drama-action television series distributed on Greek Television by Alpha TV. The series was directed by Stratos Markidis, starring with Natalia Dragoumi and Stavros Zalmas. The story describes the life of a happy couple, Fillipos and Alex, who are married for 17 years and have two children. When Fillipos gets promoted, the family decides to celebrate with a journey in Tinisia. In the airport there, Alex sees Mauro for the first time, a mysterious Greek-Italian doctor. After this meeting, the life of this triangle changes dramatically once Alex get lost in a local Bazaar. Then the adventure begins, as Fillipos tries desperately to find Alex in a foreign and hostile country.

“The show involves family matters, which we all hold close to our hearts. The anxiety and turmoil a family is put through when faced with such an incident is heartbreaking. Relationships and bonds within the family are tested in moments like these and often are a make it or break it factor. As humans, we can all relate to this and I feel this is what makes the story important,” said Lahanas.

In The Disappearance, Lahanas plays a young and ambitious police officer, actively participating in the chase of Mauro who had abducted Alex. The requirements of this role were demanding, requiring lots of running and combat skills, as well as successful expression of intense emotions during the scenes. The character is essential in the story development, as the police officer helps to solve the disappearance that the show is based off of.

“What I really liked about working on this project was how physically demanding the role was and how intense the emotions ran through my body, allowing me to commit to my character as needed. All of this allowed me to expand my horizons as an actor. Working on this production was extremely interesting as all the filming was done outdoors, and all the cast and crew were tested by the circumstances we had to work with, heat being a number one factor and of course all the stunts involved,” Lahanas described.

The role of the police officer required a lot of stunt work that Lahanas did himself. The character actively participated in chasing down the main suspect and finally resolving the case with success. This meant Lahanas needed to be trained in combat and stunt driving.

“Working on this production was an amazing experience. Acquiring such skills that I hadn’t had the chance to work on before and really enjoyed doing. There were times were my limits were tested on set as some shots were extremely dangerous and it was up to me to decide whether or not I wanted to take the risk. Being put in this situation helped me shape the character I wanted to portray,” he described.

These shots were risky. While filming one crucial scene in an abandoned house during the night, one of the floorboards where Lahanas was walking suddenly collapsed. Luckily, he was able to grab onto the remaining floor to prevent a serious injury, but he was still hurt. However, he did not let this interfere with his portrayal of the police officer, something that impressed all who he worked with.

“I worked with Konstadinos on The Disappearance and was immediately impressed by him. His acting skills during difficult and demanding action scenes were magnificent. I think that the biggest strengths of Konstadinos are his dedication to the needs of every role and also his ability to improvise,” said co-star Natalia Dragoumi.

Lahanas became a part of this project after the casting agent contacted him. They knew they needed someone talented that could also handle the physical demands of the role. Lahanas was the immediate choice, and once he read the script, he was hooked.

“I was immediately inspired by the high intensity of the role and all the stunts involved in the action sequences. Doing my own stunts was something I always wanted to experience as an actor,” he said.

There is little doubt as to why, with such extraordinary talent, Lahanas is such a successful and acclaimed actor, and audiences can expect to continue to see him on both their big and small screen for years to come.

 

Jing Wen talks becoming a web phenomenon

Jing Wen
Jing Wen

When Jing Wen sits to envision how to begin working on a new project, every fibre of her being comes to life. She is addicted to the power she experiences when she witnesses her audience feeling her story. From the very first take, she knows what she wants them to see and she commits herself to ensuring that every single step is taken with care to do her ideas justice. For the renowned director, her work allows her to be free to express herself and her opinions before the world in a way few other professions allow. It is a job unlike any other and her passion for her work is unprecedented.

For as long as Wen can remember, storytelling has been her calling and she has done so for the better of every project she has ever embarked on. In her work on films like Blossoming Flowers and Golden Eagle Festival, Wen has taken the inner workings of her mind and shared them with her audience in the most raw, authentic way possible. She is a natural connector, knowing all of the intricate roles involved in bringing a film to life and ensuring that each and every person she works with knows exactly what they need to do to help carry the film to greatness. When a problem arises, she knows exactly what to do and she makes sure that her co-workers are at ease and confident in their roles at all times.

Wen’s leadership skills are unparalleled and they have been instrumental to her success as a director. In 2016, she was tasked with re-vamping the Chinese reality show, Mom is Superman 1. The show’s producer, Baili Yuan, sought Wen’s help in the midst of a struggle to change the direction of the show after its first season. Yuan knew that the script needed the perspective of a director like Wen. Someone who had the creative edge to keep their audience fully engaged and eagerly anticipating each new episode. Yuan also knew that it needed a natural born leader. It required a skilled director who could talk the stars through their roles and establish attainable targets. To Yuan’s satisfaction, Wen agreed to share her talents with Yuan’s team and presented her vision for Mom is Superman 2.

The result was astounding. Wen far exceeded any expectations that Yuan had for her. The wildly successful web series received 1.4 million viewers online and became a Topic Discussion online over 3.2 billion times. Unsurprisingly, Mom is Superman 2 won Macau International Advertising Festival’s “2016-17 Best Program of China” award and Wen is without a doubt the reason why.

Wen’s satisfaction, however, came from the chance she seized to use her talents for the better of her viewers. She got to do what she loves more than anything else. She got to tell stories. “What I love about directing is story telling. It is the most essential part of any film. As a director, the way in which you choose to tell your story is crucial. I want my audience to feel amazed when they watch my films. More importantly, I want them to find meaning in the stories I tell,” said Wen.

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Mom is Superman 2 poster

The challenge, for Wen, is that making her films often involves the assistance of a sponsor. She knows how difficult it can be when a sponsor pushes her to accept their advice and their suggestions. Her vast experience in the industry, however, allows her to overcome this obstacle each time she is presented with it. She is passionate about her work and she understands the need to stay true to her original ideas. In order to do so, she has grasped the ability to liaise effortlessly with her sponsors and ensure that any compromises she makes wont jeopardize the integrity of the film. Her professionalism is one of the many reasons that sponsors and producers are eager to work with her at any chance they get. Mom is Superman 2’s producer, Yuan is a prime example. Having worked with Wen on several occasions, Yuan continues to return to her whenever she is looking for a high quality director who can help take her projects to the next level.

“I first met Jing when she was a graduate but I haven’t forgotten her since. She is so full of curiosity and she thrives in a variety of situations. She is such a creative director and her experience makes her an asset on any project. She knows how to handle any emergency we encounter on set,” told Yuan.

After achieving such acclaim for Mom is Superman 2, Wen has already set her sights on an even bigger, brighter outcome for Mom is Superman 3. Every time she finishes a project, she is already thinking about the next best thing she can bring to the screen. This is because directing is a lifestyle for Wen and storytelling is her artistry. It isn’t something she can shut off, and why would she? She is fortunate enough to be able to do what she loves and to be great at what she does. She lives every artist’s dream on a daily basis and she does not plan on stopping any time soon.

Television Host Dan Babic strives to be in the one percent

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Dan Babic on set

Working in a field as gruelling as the entertainment industry is no small feat. Where most individuals see a daunting career path, plagued by unstable income and fierce competition, Australian entertainer Dan Babic has only ever seen a breadth of opportunity. It has never been about a steady pay check, or a permanent “nine to five,” but rather about embracing the unknown and the diversity of challenges that entertaining unveils. When most parents ask their child about what they’d like to be when they grow up, they often expect to hear answers like “famous entertainer” and simply hope that the novelty will wear off with age. This, however, was not the case for Babic’s mother and father, as his unwavering desire to entertain has only grown stronger over the years.

 

“Less than one per cent of the world’s entire population are at the top of the entertainment industry. So, if you want to be part of the one per cent, you have to be prepared to do what only one per cent of people can do,” notes Babic. Unsurprisingly, he is prepared to do just that and more. His relentless desire to share his talents with the world push him to test his own limits and to bring the unique elements of his personality to the industry in ways that other television personalities haven’t before. The result is a seemingly effortless combination of humour and realism that flavour his work in a unique way that one can only truly understand by witnessing him in action. The success that this up-and-coming entertainer has achieved so early on in his career is a result of his natural affinity for entertainment and his drive to showcase himself as an authentic television personality.

In 2016, when Babic was approached to host Fashion One’s Design Genius, Babic couldn’t resist accepting. The series centres around a “fashion-packed” competition that challenges fashion designers to create original and inventive clothing and accessories. A show of this nature requires an effective host. A host who isn’t afraid to challenge its competitors, but who also has the capacity to empathize with the designers and capitalize on the genuine moments that a testing competition orchestrates.

“I wanted to work on Design Genius, as the success the show relied entirely on the host’s ability to captivate, engage and connect a culturally diverse audience of over 400 million people from 173 countries. I wanted to showcase my ability of to unifying individuals of all different backgrounds. The show sought a distinctive, unique personality to host and I knew this is something I have to offer. I knew that I would be an asset to the project. It required a host with the rare skill set needed to take the audience on a journey from beginning, through the middle, to the end in an improvisational, yet precise fashion. This isn’t something that every television personality is able to do, but it is the exact hosting style that I thrive in and so I knew from the start that I was the only person for the job. What’s more, is that I had always dreamed of working with the show’s producer, Tone Innset,” tells Babic.

Fortunately, the reputation that Babic has established for himself presents him as a top tier television host and personality. When producers or directors are searching for a host, his name comes to mind almost instantaneously. Innset’s knowledge of Babic’s talents made her eager to work with the entertainer and Design Genuis’ viewers reaped the benefits.

“Mr. Babic performed the leading role of host for the series Design Genius, where he garnered a substantial amount of praise for himself and the series. In his leading role, his responsibilities required him to complete a number of tasks, including introducing the series, the contestants, and their projects for each and every episode. His larger than life personality allowed him to attract audiences to the show simply by listening to him or watching him, as his exciting interactions with his co-hosts and contestants were often unconventional in the approach, confronting aggressive contestants, or heartily joking and laughing with his fellow hosts and judges. It is imperative for a host to have such a personality, and to utilize their skillsets as a performer to convey this to the audience. In addition to the typical duties of a host, he was also responsible for leading the show as a judge, and he decided which contestants advanced to the subsequent rounds, which contestants were eliminated, and which contestants broke the rules and must be disqualified. Dan has a unique ability to command attention from his audience and the other contestants, as well as his other judges, highlighting his domineering on screen personality, which translates into increased viewership for the series as a whole,” says Innset.

The show’s wide reach is a testament to Babic’s mastery of television hosting and flawless ability to captivate his audience. What’s most impressive, however, is Babic’s ability to remain humble in his rise of fame. In the wake of praise, Babic remains true to himself. “What I like most about being an on-camera personality is that it feels like home. It completely lights me up in every way possible. When I’m hosting a television show, I feel an overwhelming sense of comfort in knowing that I am doing exactly what I am meant to do. The pure joy it brings me extends to all aspects of my life and helps me become the best version of myself that I can be. Words cannot describe how much I love and live for what I do and I am beyond grateful that I get to experience that every single day with my work. It is such a rare thing and I never forget that but I know that my success comes from my persistence, my fearlessness, my hard work and by simply trusting my intuition,” Babic states.

Babic’s talents as an entertainer are unparalleled. Television show creators would be hard-pressed to find a host more dynamic and at ease in front of the camera than him. He was born to be on screen and anyone who has seen his work knows that great things are in store for his future audiences.

Britain’s Rosie Kinane-Adams is not just a producer, but a true storyteller

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Rosie Kinane-Adams

Rosie Kinane-Adams has always been aware of the power of storytelling. She understands the connection one can feel with someone they have never met, simply by hearing their story. She has felt this obsession since she was a child. She wanted to know everything about everyone that ever existed. She became fascinated with television and its ability to share the story of a child her age going through much different circumstances; from her house in London, England, she was able to see far beyond her city, and into the happenings around the world.

It was only natural for Kinane-Adams to want to do her part to tell people’s stories, and the answer was simple. She would be a producer. She would spend her life showing people who overcome all obstacles, whether it be the story of a dancer who overcame a disability to perform on the biggest stage in the world, or a couple trying to overcome their lifestyle differences and fall in love.

“I wanted to be responsible for inspiring people around the world and showing them what’s out there and what people are capable of,” she said.

Kinane-Adams has worked on many successful projects throughout her career. She produced Married at First Sight Australia, which has been nominated for Best Factual Program Silver at the Logie Awards. She also produced two seasons of Simon Cowell’s hit show America’s Got Talent, impressing audiences and colleagues across the globe.

“The simplest way to describe working with Rosie would be like a ‘breath of fresh air.’ That is why she stands out among other producers I worked with. Her approach to the job, her attitude, and her overall presence are something all producers need to strive for. She brings excitement, positivity, and new ideas in every situation she is in. She is the best producer I have ever worked with; and hopefully will again in the near future,” said Chase Marbumrung, Line Producer of America’s Got Talent. “Rosie is so amazing at what she does because she is dynamic. She is full of energy and new ideas; and she adapts to any situation without sacrificing her character. Everyone I know who worked with her can vouch for this. Every production would be lucky to have to her.”

Earlier this year, Kinane-Adams once again put her touch on a popular television show, this time being for the ninth season of Masterchef Australia. The Masterchef franchise is one of the most successful cooking shows in the world, with a presence in 52 countries, and on every continent. The Australian version differs slightly from the original British version. The initial round of the show consists of a large number of hopeful contestants from across Australia individually “auditioning” by presenting a food dish before the three judges in order to gain one of 50 semi-final places. The semi-finalists then compete in several challenges which test their food knowledge and preparation skills. The contestants will then be whittled down through a number of individual and team-based cooking challenges and weekly elimination rounds until a winning MasterChef is crowned. The winner plays for a prize that includes chef training from leading professional chefs, the chance to have their own cookbook published, and $250,000 in cash. Working on the show has been a mission point of Kinane-Adams’ career.

Masterchef is the most successful cooking show format in the world, and a lot of that comes down to story. People at home love to see home cooks like themselves succeed and achieve their dream. It’s about good people wanting to follow their dream and learn from the best in their business. It’s a feel-good show, and they never go out of style,” said Kinane Adams.

After her success with Married at First Sight, the Endomol Shine Group recruited Kinane-Adams to work on Masterchef. They were looking for the best, and Kinane-Adams’ results from Married at First Sight showed she was just that. Her episodes did incredibly well in the ratings up against tough competition. Her episodes came in at number one in the ratings the night they aired, and were up 98 per cent year on year from the timeslot the year before. She continued a similar pattern on Masterchef.

“Having an internationally renowned producer like Rosie on the team brought an invaluable source of knowledge and creativity to the show. Working with her inspired creativity for myself and the rest of the team. Rosie’s unique approach to storytelling is what makes her one of the best in the business,” said Kelly Maycock, Senior Producer of Masterchef Australia.

Kinane-Adams edit produced two 60-minute episodes of Masterchef Australia. To do this, she took the raw content from the field and crafted it into a clear, concise and compelling episode for the viewers at home. She would watch through over a hundred hours of footage and create a clear timeline and story from the many stories that existed within the episode. From there, she would work with her editor to polish it into an episode that met the high standard that Masterchef has the reputation for. She was vital to the success of her episodes, and the season as a whole.

Working on such a respected format within my industry, and one that has been around in one form or another since I was born, is an incredible milestone for me. To have such final creative control on such a successful and complex show is a wonderful feeling. With just myself and an editor working on it gives you a real sense of ownership over the episode. The success of that episode is, in a large part, down to storytelling,” Kinane-Adams said. “The show has a lot of integrity. It’s all about encouraging growth for the everyday man, proving that anyone can follow their dreams and achieve them. It has a really positive vibe to it, and that’s a wonderful thing to be a part of.”

Masterchef is known in the industry for being one of the hardest shows to post-produce and edit. It is said if you can do Masterchef, you can do it all in the reality world, and Kinane-Adams can truly do everything in the reality world. She is one of Britain’s best, and there is no doubt that we can continue to expect great work from this storyteller for quite some time.

Actress Claire Stollery tells her story in award-winning film ‘Who is Hannah’

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Claire Stollery as Hannah in Who is Hannah

Claire Stollery was never interested in anything other than acting. As a child growing up in Calgary, she always had this one passion. As she grew and moved around Canada, what started out as a childhood dream started to become a reality. There is no doubt that Claire Stollery was meant to be an actress, and audiences everywhere know this every time they see her on the big and small screen.

As an actor, being vulnerable is pivotal to opening yourself up to a character. Connecting with the story and allowing your experiences to come through is vital when it comes to connecting with an audience. Stollery knows this well. She starred in the award-winning film Who is Hannah, that she also co-wrote, and allowed the events in her life to guide her character, creating a cathartic experience for the actress.

“This film was very close to me. I co-wrote it with a great comedian friend of mine, John Hastings. We wanted to collaborate and create a great dark comedy, but we didn’t know what we wanted to write about. One night after a show we were sitting in my cold car, a couple days before Christmas. I told him the story of how I had met my biological father in Los Angeles when I was 21. I found his number and left him a message, lying about my identity because I wasn’t sure he’d call me back if he knew who I was. In the end I came clean and we decided to meet up. When he arrived at the coffee shop, he ended up calling me while he was standing right beside me. We had no idea what each other looked like! It was like a meet-cute you’d see in a rom-com.  John couldn’t stop laughing of the horror and awkwardness of the situation. We decided then and there we would write a film exploring that scenario and what could go wrong when you don’t know what each other look like,” Stollery described.

Who is Hannah is the awkward and unlikely tale of how one girl meets her dead dad. Stollery plays Hannah, a role that was written with her in mind. Because she helped write the film, she already had the character’s voice inside her. Hannah is a girl who just wants to belong somewhere and know where she came from. She feels lost and incomplete because she’s never known the identity of her father – only known pieces from what her mother has told her. The problem is, she discovers everything her mother has told her about her father is the plot to Indiana Jones. When she finds out that her mother completely lied to her about her father’s identity and that he’s alive and lives in the next town, she has new hope for self-completion.

“I can’t really relate to Hannah’s feeling of incompleteness because I was lucky enough to have a dad growing up. My mom met my father who raised me when I was six months old. But even then, you always wonder what that other person is like. Are you like them? Do you look like them? There are always those thoughts at the back of your mind,” Stollery described. “Everyone wants to know where they come from. We want to know our history; it’s a universal desire. For those people who are searching for their identity, we wanted a film that let them know they are not alone. Since making the film I have had a lot of people write me or come up to me after screenings telling me about their experience or a friend’s experience of meeting a biological parent. There are a lot of those stories out there, but people don’t talk about them that often. There’s a lot of shame in having parents abandon their children. For the kid, it is a terrifying journey seeking out and meeting a parent for the very first time. You’ve imagined and built up this person your entire lifetime. There’s a lot of pressure for fantasy to match reality. It was important for John and me to write a film that finds the humour in such a bizarre but impactful moment in someone’s life.”

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Behind the scenes of Who is Hannah

Because of Stollery’s deep understanding of her character, the film went on to do exceptionally well at many international film festivals. It was an Official Selection at The Atlantic Film Festival where it premiered last year, and then went on to be an Official Selection at The Hamilton Film Festival, The Toronto International Short Film Festival, Hollywood North Film Festival and The Toronto Independent Film Festival. At the Lakeshorts International Film Festival where it was also an Official Selection, Who is Hannah took home the Cinespace Jury’s Choice Award and the People’s Choice Award.

“When it finally premiered we were so happy people liked it and were laughing. Because we had been with it for so long, we had no idea if it was even funny anymore. And you start second guessing yourself and wondering, was it ever funny? Were we just delirious on set when we filmed it at 4 am?” said Stollery. “And it was amazing to receive the Jury’s Choice Award. They always have such talented and revered people on their jury, so their opinion meant a lot. I’m so tickled when anyone likes something I make. It was a great honour to receive it and even better feeling to receive the People’s Choice award. We didn’t know anyone at the screenings, and to have a room full of strangers resonate with your film was really a special moment for us. There really is nothing better than sitting in a theatre and listening to people laugh at something you wrote and eaves dropping on people saying good things about it afterwards.”

Part of what makes Stollery so good at what she does is her ability to improvise. Although this is sometimes not encouraged on set, the Director of Who is Hannah, Mark O’Brien, was all for it. He knew what Stollery was capable of, and knew what she could add to both the character and the film. His instincts were right.

“Claire is an extremely talented actress and writer. She’s a very open-minded artist who knows how to collaborate well, while at the same time making her work authentic and unique. She works hard, and that is a rarity in this business. There’s a lot of talk in the entertainment industry, but Claire goes out and gets it done. And really, that’s what you want most from someone you’re working with. And she does it well,” said O’Brien. “She’s a very natural actress, very real. Acting is a tough skill that can be improved through training, but I do believe that there must be some inherent talent in the person first. Claire has a foundation of incredible talent that will take her very far. Anyone who has the chance to work with her should count themselves lucky.”

It was more than just the story and character that Stollery could connect with, even the set meant something to her. They filmed in an old, abandoned farm house that the actress had actually grown up in, as well as a hotel that was the first place Stollery went to when she visited Toronto as a child.

“Even though the film is a comedy, it is rooted in real issues. There’s a fine line tonally with dark comedies. You don’t want to make it too comedic otherwise you lose the truth of the situations. But you don’t want to make it too dark, otherwise you lose the comedic release. It’s a balancing act doing those types of films” she said.

But the most important part of the process for Stollery was not the awards, accolades, or why she embarked on the project, it was what it turned into.

“Filming was therapeutic for me. I had just lost my father who raised me a couple years prior, we were filming in the house I grew up in, the story was loosely based on my experience with meeting my biological father. And I realized I never really talked about it with my father who raised me. I regret that I didn’t check in with him more about the whole situation and considered his feelings more. But he was great about it and knew it was something I needed to do. He didn’t interfere. Not to mention my mother wasn’t too happy I was making a film about a man who had left us, even though it was very loosely inspired by him. But that was how she saw it. So it’s safe to say there were a lot of emotions surrounding the project!” Stollery concluded.

Audiences can see Who Is Hannah at the end of this year on CBC.

Writer Guilherme Ribeiro has always aimed to make a difference in society

Guilherme Ribeiro has been writing since he was just a child. Growing up in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, his marks in school were always best in the subjects of Portuguese, History and Geography, all writing based, constantly impressing his teachers with his compositions and use of words. It was always easier for him to write about something or draw a cartoon character rather than trying things in math or the sciences. Even at a young age, writing was his passion, and after getting his first computer at the age of eight, he started developing both his writing and online savvy. It was therefore a natural progression for him to eventually become an online content writer, and now he is one of Brazil’s best.

Ribeiro has impressed many with his writing in many mediums and genres. He has written news articles, travel blogs, and television documentaries. He has helped build up websites and has impressive social media knowledge. His work on the new music project Welocalize, as well as Mastercard Priceless Rio, Toxic Rio, and Globo TV network, just a few of the highlights of his esteemed career.

“I can see myself now in a highlight moment of my career. I found my way on writing about entertainment, music and content for e-commerce and I really believe that’s the way conventional writers will renew themselves and find another alternative to make money and get in touch with readers. I’m working for important clients, sometimes signing my name on articles, others just working with content editing, and creative input for online stores and apps,” said Ribeiro.

Before getting to this point, however, Ribeiro worked to earn the reputation he now has. Part of this involved his work with TV PUC and his award-winning show. The TV show Paternidade Ausente, Histórias Incompletas revealed an important issue for the Brazilian society and could open a discussion about paternity.

“Guilherme had good writing skills that could improve his journalistic knowledge during his time at TV PUC. He participated as a reporter in the most awarded TV show in TV PUC, so was an overall good and enriching experience,” said Carmen Petit, Ribeiro’s coordinator during his time at TV PUC.

According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Estatistic (IBGE), about 9 per cent of children born in 2008 were not registered. The following year, the Brazilian government undertook to zero the number of sub-registrations. They occur when a child is born and does not have the birth certificate made in the same year or within three months of the following year. The distance between the registries and the houses, a common problem in regions of North-Northeastern Brazil, helps to explain the occurrence of sub-registries. Another reason is the lack of knowledge of the free document. In addition, many children are late registered by the mother’s shame in assuming the father’s omission. Of every four birth certificates registered in the country, one does not have the father’s name. The percentage was estimated by the University of Brasilia (UnB), which crossed data of one hundred and eighty-three thousand certificates of notaries in the city and compared them with IBGE figures on children outside the marriage. Paternidade Ausente, Histórias Incompletas speaks about paternal recognition, paternity investigation, and the relationship between parents and children.

“This is such an important subject almost not explored by Brazilian media. When it was released, I was selected by my boss to be the reporter.  I was one of the producers and reporters, and we made the show from scratch, which was a huge thing for me at the time,” said Ribeiro. “We got so many good results. This TV show was the most awarded show in the history of TV PUC and I could believe I had future as a writer at this time. I learned a lot from my bosses and I wanted to use my skills and desire to make a difference and to create a good content for our society.”

As the reporter and producer of the TV show, Ribeiro was responsible for finding characters, collecting data from institutes, universities, doing the research, and helping to find the best lead for this compelling story. He wrote the script along with another reporter while being supervised by an editor chief. Content was aired by TV PUC in Pay TV, for educational and social communication purposes. The show is still available online, on the TV PUC website.

“When the show started winning awards, I felt I would have a promising future as a writer. We currently have four awards, two of them from a respectful academy for feature films in Brazil, Gramado Film Festival. It was such a pleasure to travel to this small town in the South part of the country to receive two awards, the Best Report of Brazilian University Television and the Best Video of the whole category of Brazilian University Television, both in the 18th edition of Gramado Cine Vídeo Festival in 2010,” Ribeiro described.

Now, almost eight years later with many successful projects on his resume, that initial success from his time at TV PUC was the beginning of Ribeiro’s outstanding career. He has always shown not only a dedication, but a passion for what he does, making him the extraordinary writer he is today.

Photo: Márcia Antabi (left), Guilherme Ribeiro (center), and Mariana Moreno (right) working with TV PUC

Actress Erika Garces: The Next Generation

Erika Garces
Actress Erika Garces

Born in Ecuador to an Ecuadorian father and German mother, actress Erika Garces’ undeniable beauty has been turning the heads of viewers around the world for the past seven years, but it’s her skill as a leading lady on both the stage and screen that’s responsible for the indelible mark that she’s made in the minds of fans.

Over the years she has become known for her performances in an impressive range of projects including the 2011 dramatic Argentinean film Milán directed by Festival Internacional Latin UY Award Nominee Alejandro Cuberos, Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival Award winner Samuel Gonzalez Jr.’s film Here with Me featuring TV Star James Scott from Days of our Lives, the 2016 dramatic comedy film Social Norm, which earned the Best Narrative Feature Award from the California Film Awards, and many more.

Last year Garces gave a dazzling performance in the comedy action film City of Dreams, where she took on the starring role of Audrey, a wife who leaves her husband only to be tracked down by one of his hitmen. As the lead actress and co-producer of the film, Garces earned the Women’s Film Challenge Award from the Audience Awards in Los Angeles earlier this year, as well as several other accolades for her work.

The ethnic ambiguity of Garces look has endowed her with the rare asset of being able to visually embody a wide range of characters from around the world, something that has definitely come in handy over the course of her career. Having taken on characters ranging from a Persian protestant in Rayka Zehtabchi’s (We Home, The Pad Project) film Madaran, which earned the HollyShorts Film Festival Jury Award in 2016, to a Spanish reporter in Gotham Independent Film Award nominee Mayon Denton’s crime mystery Distortion, Garces repertoire of work proves her versatility. As a performer who is always looking for a challenge, there are some character types that she has purposefully chosen to avoid.

The actress says, “I definitely stay away from the ‘cute girlfriend’ type. Not much to do.”

About what she looks for in a project, Garces adds, “One of the main things I focus on is the story…. Is there a message or a subject that I’m interested in working with. Is my character something new I haven’t been challenged with before, or is it a personal connection to something about this character that I would like to tell her story and communicate…”

The Perfect Plan
Poster for “The Perfect Plan”

In 2016 Garces took on the starring role of Agent E. in the action-packed romance film The Perfect Plan directed by Siena Sivrican (The Hitchhiker). The film revolves largely around Garces’ character Agent E. and Agent R. played by Akende Munalula (From the upcoming series Counterpart with JK Simmons, and Boo2A Medea Halloween with Tyler Perry), two CIA special agents tasked with bringing down a corrupt French company owned by three brothers that stands behind a massive money laundering operation.

While the adrenaline pumping espionage that unfolds over the course of the film is a major draw,  what makes The Perfect Plan even more intriguing is the unexpected romance that erupts between Agents E. and R., something that makes the ending of the film that much more tragic.

About working with Garces, Akende Munalula, who played Agent R. as well as wrote the screenplay for The Perfect Plan, says, “Her dedication to character and story telling is like I’ve never seen before. She truly immerses herself into her character and is always going deeper. I learned so much from watching her work.”

The Perfect Plan
Akende Munalula and Erika Garces in “The Perfect Plan”

Garces gives a knockout performance in The Perfect Plan, embodying both the cunning strength and seductive nature of a female secret agent, as well as the human vulnerability that allows the audience to see that the relationship between her character and Agent R. has grown into much more than a cover.

While Garces has taken on countless powerful authority-driven roles overs the course of her career, such as her role as Officer Johnson in the upcoming film La Cougars, Officer Greene in Decades Apart and Sergeant Lodge in The Hudson Case, the film The Perfect Plan provided the actress with a few intimate challenges she hadn’t experienced in the past.

“A new challenge I faced with this shoot is the intimacy that was required and the chemistry between the two leading characters. There were many kissing scenes, and implied sex scenes, no nudity, all implied, but it was new for me to live that on set as oppose to the stage,” admits Garces.

To any viewer who’s seen Garces performance in The Perfect Plan, or any of her other film work to date for that matter, it’s immediately apparent why the actress has managed to achieve the international level of success that she has over the last few years– her skill and magnetism on screen are virtually unparalleled.

About what drives her to perform, Garces explains, “It’s about telling a story that you’re passionate about. A story that affects the society, a story perhaps, that represents voices that can’t speak for themselves, but when they go to the theater (movie or stage) they identify themselves with these characters. I love the opportunity to be able to speak up for someone that cannot, through art.”

Having carved out a prominent position for herself as a sought after actress in both the U.S. and abroad, we know Erika Garces is one actress we will be seeing a whole lot more of on screen in the future. Keep your eyes peeled for Garces in the upcoming dramatic feature film Elevate from multi-award winning director Angela Matemotja (The Encounter, The Untimely Concurrence), as well as Marc Logan’s (Sweet 6teen, Solitary, Rats) crime film The Hudson Case.

Erika Garces will also be hosting Fashion Gossip at the magazine’s 2017 Maxim Hot 100 Party on Saturday, June 24th in Los Angeles.

Cinematographer Colin Akoon’s Creative Eye Makes Every Shot Stand Out

Colin Akoon
Cinematographer Colin Akoon at home behind the camera

 

In the fiercely competitive film industry, it takes a lot more than some camera know-how for a cinematographer to stand out. Many people are skilled in the technical process but lack the artistic vision required to create compelling cinema. Others possess vivid imaginations but are unable to meet (or unwilling to yield to) the expectations of the director. A person with all of these traits is a rare gem, an invaluable asset with the potential to outshine all those around them in the highly saturated industry. Colin Akoon is just such a man.

An award-winning director of photography, or DP, Akoon is responsible for a countless array of critically-acclaimed film and commercial productions. He has been fascinated with storytelling his entire life, and at a young age discovered the power cinema can have on an audience.

“I remember being six years old, watching a horror movie at a neighbor’s house, one I probably shouldn’t have been watching at that age… I still recall the fear that paralyzed me… That night I slept in my parents’ bed. I made them put the radio on to distract me from the bumps in the night,” Akoon recalled. “Good cinema gets a hold of every part of you and doesn’t let go.”

In 2014 he was critical to the wild success of the award-winning “Canadian Tire Ice Truck” ad campaign. The campaign’s name is quite literal, as Akoon explained. To promote their new cold-weather battery, Canadian Tire contracted Ice Culture to build a fully operational truck out of ice. Ice Culture is internationally-known for making everything – from ornate sculptures, to exotic lounges around the world, from Thailand to Dubai – out of ice. But this project was their most ambitious undertaking of all.

Canadian Tire
Still of Ice Truck built by Ice Culture for Canadian Tire shot by Colin Akoon

“They were having a truck built out of ice, one that would actually start and drive,” Akoon said. “It was important that we tell the story of Ice Culture – a small family-owned business – and also get a sense of the small town where they’re situated… We really wanted to get across the idea that this incredible record-breaking feat was accomplished by hard-working, everyday Canadians.”

In addition to being used in commercials for Canadian Tire, a documentary-style behind-the-scenes film was made to detail the exhaustive process of creating a working truck out of ice. Akoon was the DP on the making-of film, which played a large part in the campaign’s overwhelming popularity — particularly among the judges at a number of high-profile awards ceremonies.

“The resulting video really shows the detail of the hard work that went into the making of this ice truck,” Akoon said proudly. “The ‘Ice Truck’ campaign went off to be nominated and win more than a dozen awards…  and our making-of documentary was a big contributor to the overall success of the campaign.”

It was a brilliant stroke of marketing genius to complement the campaign with a making-of documentary. A fascinating glimpse into the creation of the eye-catching ice truck, Akoon’s work captured the attention of consumers and advertising critics alike. The campaign’s laundry list of accolades include the Best In Show Award and two Gold Medals (for “Best Brand Building Campaign” and “Most Innovative Idea or Concept”) at the 2014 PROMO! Awards, third prize at the 2014 world-renowned New York Festivals International Advertising Awards, and the honor of being on the shortlist of contenders for the 2014 Cannes Lions Award, often considered the most sought-after and prestigious award in the advertising industry.

As a cinematographer, Akoon has his fingers in a lot of pies and doesn’t restrict himself to any one type of project. His exceptional work in advertising is widely-recognized, but his creativity and visual mastery shine their brightest in his work on narrative film and television productions. One such example is director Mateo Guez’s 2014 film “Together Alone,” for which Akoon was the DP. The emotionally-charged film looks at the love and lust within a group of three star-crossed young lovers. However, “Together Alone” is much more than the story of an ill-fated love triangle.

“Mateo assembled a very small team to make “Together Alone” a feature film about two young men and one young woman as they struggle through friendship, sexual relations, and self-identity,” Akoon said. “Mateo desired to make a film that did not strictly adhere to any one script or blueprint, but rather would evolve through improvisation and experimentation. As a result, the filmmaking was a very intimately creative experience.”

Of the countless projects he has been involved in, Akoon describes Lorne Hiltser’s “The Incident(s) at Paradise Bay” as among his personal favorites. Gripping and heart-wrenching, “The Incident(s) at Paradise Bay” is based on the real-world Tranquility Bay reform school in Jamaica, which became the focus of global outrage in 2007 after allegations that the facility’s strict disciplinary methods were actually child abuse.

“The moral question of whether the procedures… were just or merely abusive was an interesting one, but mostly Lorne and I were fascinated with the poetic style by which the short script was written,” Akoon said, describing what drew him to the project. “There was an eerie dreamlike quality to the script that Lorne and I knew we wanted to explore visually.”

Akoon captured that eerily surreal sensation flawlessly. Every shot of every scene was painstakingly planned and calculated to maximize that dreamlike quality of the film. His use of zoom shots as a nostalgic beginning and ending of the film contrasts seamlessly with the close, tight shots used to introduce Marcus, the film’s protagonist.

“The sequence that shows Marcus in the ‘solution room’ cage was a very important one. This was our real introduction to the character and to the harsh treatment of the academy’s disciplinary attrition,” Akoon said. “We wanted the audience to feel they were Marcus in that cage. Depth of field for this sequence was kept to a minimum, visually suggesting the claustrophobic feeling of being caged.”

Throughout “The Incident(s) at Paradise Bay,” “Together Alone,” and all of Akoon’s countless other films, his talent and experience are unmissable. Akoon has a natural gift for capturing the exact aesthetic a project demands, a deliberate manner of planning and setting up each shot, and is unsurpassed in his aptitude for collaboration, constantly working closely with each project’s director to conceive and achieve a shared vision. In an industry with so much competition, nobody can hold a candle up to Colin Akoon.

Ingenious Production Designer Yihong Ding Wraps Production on “Mira”

Yihong Ding
Production Designer Yihong Ding

The striking talent of Yihong Ding as a production designer and art director is literally visible in every project she has touched. She moves seamlessly through the worlds of film, television and advertising; not an easy feat when one considers that the approach a person must take when designing the ambiance of a feature film to match a director’s vision is vastly different from their approach to creating the backdrop of a commercial meant to persuade an audience of consumers.

Originally from Shanghai, Ding studied in London and eventually got her master’s in production design at the world-renowned American Film Institute in Los Angeles. Since then, she has been hard at work on an ever-growing list of projects. To ensure each film, show or commercial conveys the right mood and feeling, she works closely with the director of the production to capture and physically recreate their vision. From color schemes to lighting, props to set design, she is responsible for turning the conceptual into the living, breathing worlds we see on film.

Ding has worked on projects ranging from The Birthday Boys starring Bob Odenkirk (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Mr. Show) to Mandala, the winner of the 2015 Los Angeles International Film Festival award for Best Foreign Film. She’s done several commercials for Diomany high-end lingerie and served as art director of an advertisement for the Microsoft Outlook app. It’s her work on films like Mira however that really showcases her incredible talent for production design and her awe-inspiring ability to create a self-contained world on the screen.

Working on director Amanda Tasse’s Mira, currently in post-production, Ding was given a dual-challenge. First was creating a marine biology research laboratory complete with the appropriate scientific equipment and actual jellyfish tanks. Second, she had to design an intricate “memory wall” which the title character uses to keep a log of her life.

“I had a lot of fun doing the research for this project,” said Ding, who studies every project’s background meticulously to ensure the environment seen on camera is authentic and accurate. “We ended up filming at an empty lab on Catalina Island, and dressing the lab into the jellyfish lab for the story.”

Vanessa Patel as Mira in the lab created by Yihong Ding in "Mira"
Vanessa Patel as Mira in the lab created by Yihong Ding in “Mira”

Filming on an island presented its own challenges. Ding had to personally pack all of the glass tubes and prop equipment by hand, and shipping all of the fragile items to Catalina was expensive and required her to closely observe weight restrictions and eliminate any waste in the budget while maintaining the realistic integrity of the set.

“Finding the jellyfish tank was another challenge. They were all costume-made and very expensive,” she said. “I almost had to build them myself, but luckily we found a person that was willing to rent three to us for a really great deal.”

The experience tested and proved Ding’s invaluable ability to balance the creative and financial sides of production design with aplomb. The laboratory she created is so authentic and convincing it’s absolutely indistinguishable from a research facility one might see at a university. While the lab provides the backdrop, the “memory wall” Ding created gives the viewer a personal connection to Mira’s title character.

The character of Mira suffers from a form of epilepsy that causes intense seizures and short-term memory loss of the hours preceding each attack. Mira dedicates herself to studying a species of jellyfish which may hold a cure for her disease, but her condition poses a huge challenge and she has to find a way to overcome the amnesia. So Ding helped design a “memory wall,” which becomes Mira’s method of constantly reminding herself of what’s happened before each seizure.

“She would take a picture right before she knew she was going to have a seizure… and then she would map out all the pictures on her bedroom wall,” Ding described. “It was a very complicated visual graphic to create, and I wanted to make sure that it looked real… and for the very first time I sat down and considered myself as Mira… I started to think like Mira, which was really amazing, because I found myself digging deeper into the design than I normally do.”

Yihong Ding has what many specialists lack: a multifaceted skillset combined with extensive experience in every level of design and the ability to work within any range of budget without ever compromising the quality of the project. From envisioning the conceptual to building the practical, from dressing sets to arranging the details and minutia for the perfect shot, she is a one-woman creative army.